KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 8 — Malaysian news portal UtusanTV has been blocked in Malaysia and it is currently inaccessible on various telcos in the country. Local visitors to the website are greeted with the message “This website is not available in Malaysia as it violates the National Law” which is the standard template for websites blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
At the time of writing, we couldn’t access the site via Celcom, Maxis and Yes 5G. However, it is still accessible via a VPN connection.
Interestingly, Media Mulia Sdn Bhd which owns Utusan Malaysia, issued a statement just a few hours ago denying that it is related to UtusanTV. It says Utusan Malaysia and its newspaper publication permit are owned by Media Mulia. It added that any usage of the “Utusan” brand has caused some confusion about the ownership and it is often linked to Utusan Malaysia and Media Mulia.
It emphasised that it has no links or relationship to the content, ownership, management and operations of UtusanTV which is owned by another entity. Media Mulia said it reserves its right to defend its rights to ensure that its brand Utusan Malaysia is protected and does not cause any confusion to its readers.
According to MalaysiaKini, UtusanTV was established by former Utusan Malaysia staff after the holding company Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad was shut down in 2019 due to financial troubles. According to UtusanTV’s About Us page, their portal offers current and business news and it also offers content from 6 other magazines including Mastika, Wanita, URTV, Al Islam, Saji and Hijab. UtusanTV is owned and managed by Utusan Binders Sdn Bhd. It currently has a large following on TikTok with 2.9 million followers.
Geramm (Gerakan Media Merdeka), a loose coalition of media practitioners and supporters of press freedom in Malaysia, has issued a statement on the UtusanTV blockade. They have called upon the MCMC to provide an explanation of the mechanism to block websites, especially for online news portals. This comes after a recent report that MalaysiaNow was also blocked but no official explanation was provided. Geramm stresses that censorship should not be used to block any legitimate news, articles or opinions.
The group said the MCMC should issue a notice or reminder to the affected media before a blockade is imposed. It added that the two recent blockades were imposed without notifying the editorial team of the targetted news portals that their site has been blocked and the reasons behind the action. Geramm said it is quite puzzling when MCMC instead took actions to “investigate” complaints lodged by managements of the media organisations, when there should have been a clear reason for the blocks, and there are no other authorities with the power to take such actions.
We have reached out to MCMC for further clarification. — SoyaCincau